Refugees face barriers to dental care

Associate Professor Anna Ziersch (The Southern Cross)

Language, transport, cost and fear are just some of the barriers preventing refugees in the community from accessing much-needed dental services. Source: The Southern Cross.

By Lindy McNamara, The Southern Cross

Research funded by the University of Adelaide reveals that nearly 60 per cent of the more than 200 Middle Eastern refugees surveyed need fillings due to dental decay, with almost 30 per cent requiring teeth to be extracted.

However, they are delaying dental care due to the associated costs, waiting times, a lack of interpreting services available and in some cases fear arising from torture or trauma that occurred in their home country.

Anna Ziersch from Flinders University and Clemence Due from the University of Adelaide have looked at a range of factors impacting the wellbeing of refugees and asylum-seekers, with Associate Professor Ziersch presenting some of the findings at a Justice for Refugees forum last year.

“One area of concern where there is great disparity between the general population and refugees is oral health,” Professor Ziersch said.

She outlined the results, revealing that more than 70 per cent of participants rated their oral health as “only fair to poor”.

“A majority said their oral health affected their general health, with some of the impacts being physiological (pain), functional (eating, sleeping, speaking) and aesthetic (embarrassment, self-consciousness from missing teeth),” she said.

While some refugees surveyed were eligible for subsidised dental services it depended on their “visa and income” and it was “very changeable”.

Untreated dental decay, gum disease and physical dental trauma were being dealt with by refugees on a daily basis, with pain being the biggest concern to their general wellbeing.

Professor Ziersch said social inclusion of refugees was important.

“Being connected to others assisted people’s pathways to housing, to oral health services and to employment. Social inclusion is also linked to wellbeing,” she said.


Barriers to dental care (The Southern Cross

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